10 Tips for Reading Aloud
Every book is a world.
Opening that world starts with you — but no pressure. If you're not yet comfortable reading aloud, here's a good place to start. It's a learning process.
Even if you are comfy, here's a good place to start with making reading aloud easier and more fun for both you and your child.
- First, read it to yourself. Is it the right book for your child? Also, pick out material you might want to shorten, cut, change, or emphasize.
- Be on the lookout for key objects, geography, people, and characters to point out while reading. What things would interest your child?
- Read together every day at the same time and place. Read slowly and explore the book. If you can't finish the whole book, choose a stopping point. You don't have to finish a book a day.
- For any child who is not yet reading, it is okay to skip over material in the book, to simplify language, or replace names with the names of the kids who are listening.
- It's important to convey the richness of each page and make sure your child understands all the words, concepts, and emotions. Before reading, choose three or four words your child may not know. Talk about what these words mean. When you come across those words in the story, let your child tell you what they mean!
- Like most things, it takes practice for a parent to become a good describer of pictures. Keep the descriptions age-appropriate and consistent for a non-visual learner. Suggested picture descriptions for our featured titles, Dragons Love Tacos, The Day the Crayons Quit, and Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, will give you a flavor for how to do it.
- Focus first on the three or four most central objects, the geography, characters, or people on the page. Giving picture cues helps children better understand the text.
- Use your voice to strengthen your picture descriptions, and to emphasize the words in the story.
- Your voice can sound happy or sad or frightened or calm. Your pitch could be high or low, or it could sound like it's nearby or coming from far away.
- It isn’t always easy for children to "read" facial expressions and body language.
- If a character has an angry look, ask your child if they know how to make an angry look, and how to sound angry. If they aren't sure, model the feelings for them. Let them touch your face to feel what it looks like. Also model the physical positions of the people, characters, and objects in the book.
- "Have you ever felt that way before?"
- "What might [one of the story characters] be thinking?"
- "Do you know someone who has felt that way?"
- "How would you feel if ______?"
- "What would you do if you were in their shoes?"
- If you have a toy or animal that matches a character in the story, for example the main character is a teddy bear, you can use it.
- Provide tactile explorations where your child handles and explores an object — at the playground, at the mall, at the supermarket, everywhere.
- Active reading means both you and your child play a part. Your child can chime in with details they already know, they can imagine, or they can guess long before they are reading. Strengthen their listening skills with questions like these:
- "How many _____ did we already hear about?"
- "Which runner came in first? Second? Third? Last?"
- "What do you think will happen next?"
- On repeated reading of the same story, once your child is familiar with how the story goes, stretch their imaginations by asking:
- "We saw an animal at the zoo like the one in this story. Did it act the same way as the one in this story?"
- "When we tried to climb the icy hill outside our house last winter, what happened to us?"
- "If the birthday boy/girl eats one more piece of cake, how will his/her tummy feel?"
- "How could ______ have planned things differently so _______ didn't happen?"
- What was the story about?
- What was real and what was make-believe in this story?
- Who are the characters?
- What was the problem?
- How was the problem solved?
- Do you think _____ could have acted differently? How?
1. Choose the Right Book.
2. Make Reading a Family Tradition.
3. Take Your Time.
4. Before Reading Each Page, Describe the Images.
5. Use Vocal Expression.
6. Describe — and Model — the Facial Expressions and Body Language.
7. Ask Simple Questions that Spark Responses and Foster Empathy.
8. Use Tactiles While You Are Reading — Toys, Objects Found Around the House, and Natural Materials Found Outside.
9. Let Your Child Help Tell the Story.
10. After Reading the Story. . .
Here are some suggestions for things to discuss.